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Bulls’ Game 1 upset of Heat just what coach Tom Thibodeau scripted

Updated: June 8, 2013 6:40AM



MIAMI — Oh, my, Tom Thibodeau must have loved this. So homely was the game galumphing before his eyes that there were reports of the left corner of his mouth quivering slightly upward. But the birth of a near-smile couldn’t be
independently confirmed.

This was Monday night, and the Bulls and Miami Heat were engaged in a contest so offensive to the grace and athleticism of basketball that the whole thing felt like a big flagrant foul. Hands seemed thick and incapable of simple tasks, such as passing and shooting.

And Thibodeau must have been in his glory. The Bulls’ coach knows the only way his team can win this Eastern Conference semifinal series is if it burrows under the Heat’s skin on defense and downshifts the game to super-slo-mo speed.

It certainly was the only way the Bulls were going to win Game 1, what with Luol Deng still recovering in Chicago from the effects of a spinal tap and Kirk Hinrich out with a sore calf. And let’s not even mention the Derrick Rose situation.

The Bulls shocked the Heat
93-86, and the theme of the night was insurmountable odds — unless you were a member of the team from Chicago. Then the theme was how odd it would be that anyone would think the Bulls didn’t have a chance.

‘‘We play for each other,’’ forward Taj Gibson said. ‘‘We’ve got will. We’ve got heart. We show it every night, no matter how many players [are missing], no matter who is out there.’’

People have taken to laughing at the things about which Gibson speaks, the things that aren’t so easy to quantify. But how do you explain the depleted Bulls dragging the defending NBA champions below sea level? It makes no sense.

It wasn’t even that the Heat choked. That would be an understandable story line — that, faced with the difficult task of repeating, the Heat simply felt the weight of it all. No, the Heat simply wasn’t all there, and a lot of that has to do with the Bulls’ sheer effort. They held the Heat to 39.7 percent shooting. They outrebounded the Heat 46-32.

In the closing minutes, you would have been forgiven for thinking the Heat finally was going to turn it on and be done with this foolishness. But it never happened, and the crowd at American Airlines Arena had the unpleasant experience of having the wind knocked out of it again and again.

Please pay close attention to the following names: Marco Belinelli made a three-pointer to tie the score at 86 with just less than two minutes left. Chris Bosh missed a shot, and Belinelli rebounded it. Nate Robinson made an 18-footer to give the Bulls a two-point lead. Dwyane Wade missed a shot. Robinson followed with a drive to put the Bulls ahead by four. LeBron James threw up an airball.

To sum up: Belinelli and Robinson for the Bulls; James, Bosh and Wade for the Heat.

Ridiculous.

Jimmy Butler did a superb job on James, who picked up his fourth MVP trophy before the game. Oh, James finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but Butler challenged him on every play. It was why James attempted only 17 shots.

Let’s try to put the game in perspective. The degree of difficulty on this game was much higher than it was when the Bulls ended the Heat’s 27-game winning streak. This game was in Miami; that one was at the United Center. This is the playoffs; that wasn’t.

I’m sure there have been uglier displays of basketball, but most of them involved blindfolds and shackled ankles. Nobody seemed to want the ball. Carlos Boozer seemed to think it carried a virus.

The only way it could have been better for Thibodeau is if there were quicksand involved. The first half didn’t just set NBA basketball back 70 years; it set fine motor skills back millions of years. Boozer was particularly awful. The Heat blocked three of his shots, and he committed three of the Bulls’ 10 turnovers. He shot 2-for-8 from the field.

And for all that, the score was tied at 37 at halftime. The Heat shot 33.3 percent from the field and 23.1 percent on three-pointers. Just how Thibodeau likes it.

‘‘We have been hit all year with a lot of different things,’’ he said. ‘‘I like the mental toughness of this team.’’

Almost as much as he liked the muck of a basketball game played Monday night.



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